The city of
came in the news lately as a
candidate to be put on the list of World Heritage Sites of the UNESCO. The name of
not ring a bell with me but its founder, Epaminondas,
in 369 BC and together with Pelopidas
was one of the most brilliant generals of .
That happened exactly one year before later King Philip of Macedonia (the father of Alexander
the Great) went to Thebes
as hostage at about thirteen years of age. He stayed at the house of general and
statesman Pammenes, who was
befriended with Epaminondas. Philip did not waste his time in the
principal city of Thebes Boeotia, which in those days
was the dominant power in ,
and kept his eyes and ears wide open. Greece
Epaminondas had been victorious over the Spartans at the Battle of Leuctra in 371 BC and is mentioned in history as the supreme master of warfare before Philip II – nothing less. Well, he was the one who applied shock tactics and combined actions by both cavalry and infantry. Pelopidas was equally talented but died in 364 during battle in
leaving Epaminondas in sole charge of
Theban affairs. Eventually this skilled general was killed when facing combined
forces of Athens, Sparta, Elis and
Achae in 362 BC by which time Philip
had returned to his homeland .
But while in Macedonia ,
Philip would have watched how the
famous and invincible Sacred Band
were trained – an elite corps of three hundred Thebans. It is said that the
corps was composed of 150 couples of lovers who would fight to death were it
only to protect or save their partner. Ironically, the Band was entirely
annihilated by Alexander fighting
under his father’s command in 338 BC at Thebes . Chaironeia
But Messene was the work of Epaminondas who managed to fortify the city in 85 days, building a wall of nine kilometers long and nine meters high, strengthened by 30 guard towers. There were only two entrances, one being the Arcadia Gate to the north and the Laconia Gate to the southeast. There was enough agricultural land and an important spring (Klepsydra) inside the walls to withstand any siege – which the Spartans tried out pretty soon, of course.
Messene still flourished
in Hellenistic times and the Romans made it the capital the .
one of the most important archaeological sites in the Peloponnese with nicely
excavated and restored remains of many building like the Asclepion, the , the Sanctuary of Demeter and
the Dioskouri, the Propylaea of the Agora, the stadium and the gymnasium as
well as the exceptional theatre that may have inspired even the Romans. The
Arcadia Gate, next to the museum, has preserved its two square flanking towers
on the outer side surrounding a circular ward of nearly Temple of Poseidon 20 meters in diameter;
from here the lay-out of the walls can easily be followed in the landscape.
The Peloponnese in the southern region of
Greece is generally ignored by today’s tourists
and is even worse off than .
It has however lots of unique and impressive remains to offer to those intrepid
travels who take the time to investigate and make the effort … to be highly
rewarded , and not only by the many antique remains but also by the
breathtaking landscape! Macedonia
[Pictures from Wikipedia]